Quick Thoughts on Beauty and the Beast

This past Saturday I took my wife to see Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast film. Apparently we weren’t alone – the film now holds the record for highest grossing opening day in March and the highest grossing opening for a PG film of all time. It’s beautifully furnished, finely acted, and narratively compelling. I’m not much of a Disney guy, but I’d venture to say that I enjoyed the film almost as much as my wife.

That being said, nobody’s really wondering about the technical excellence of the film. Rather we’re wondering whether or not to take kids to it or see it ourselves. When director Bill Condon promises audiences that he’s delivered Disney’s first “exclusively gay moment”, parents have every right to be concerned.

A couple of caveats before I give my thoughts for parents. First, my wife and I aren’t much the “boycotting” type. We drink Starbucks, shop at Target, and I type this on one of our three Apple computers. Second, we’re also not uncritical consumers of culture. We set relatively strict parameters for what we’ll watch. I’ll share more about that later if you’re interested. So without further ado, here’s my impressions:

  1. I’m not entirely sure what constituted the “exclusively gay moment” in the film. LeFou’s song had a couple of glances that might be interpreted as being untoward.  At the movie’s end he makes a mistake in the dance that leads to him joining hands with a male dance partner. There’s a quick glance that might communicate that he’s not entirely displeased by this turn of events. The director has told us how to interpret these events, but without this commentary we would just be left wondering “did they mean to imply that or not?” The film doesn’t ever explicitly indicate that LeFou is a gay man and the innuendo is so light that it’s tough to know whether it’s Disney silliness or an attempt to portray same-sex attraction.
  2. A “transgender moment” occurs when the wardrobe fends off the assault of three men by dressing them in women’s clothes. Two run off screaming and the third smiles in such a way that looks as though he enjoys the getup. The wardrobe begins singing “Be free!” Yet again, this might be interpreted as a pro-trans moment. However, it’s not dissimilar from when Pintel and Ragetti wear women’s clothes in Pirates of the Caribbean. In other words, this isn’t any different than we’ve seen before.
  3. There isn’t anything in this film that we haven’t seen before from Disney. However, this time we’re being told how to interpret it. We’re being told that these shots are indicative of advocating a pro-LGBTQ point of view.

Should parents take their kids to see it? As Paul says, let each be convinced in his own mind. Both my wife and I wouldn’t have any hesitation in taking our kids to see it. The pro-agenda content is so light that you’d wonder if it is real or if you’re imagining it without the director’s stating it is so.

This being said, it is sad to see Disney set out in this direction. This movie takes an inch. And the next one will probably take another inch. One day there will be a storyline around a prince having his prince charming come, but that is not this movie. Should Christians boycott this one in hopes of delaying or stopping that future movie? Let each be convinced in his own mind. Although to be fair, if a Christian boycotts this movie they should probably be boycotting a whole bunch of others for language, nudity, immoral sexual themes, or sheer ungodliness of storyline.

As for Kate and me, our movie standards are simultaneously rather fixed and somewhat flexible. We’ll watch what we can see or hear from a street corner. And we live in a culture where we saw a pair of men holding hands walking down the street the other day. Seeing a homosexual character isn’t particularly threatening, as what’s dangerous is not a depiction but the interpretation. We don’t want to engage with something that tells us to feel opposite of what God’s word tells us to feel. This movie presents a gay character (again, only because we know from the director that he’s gay), but it doesn’t engage our emotions about him. It doesn’t tug on the heartstrings by begging “Don’t you just want him to be happy?” This stands in marked contrast to just about any heterosexual-lust tinged movie from the last decade where we’re told to cheer for fornication.

One day I’m sure we’ll say no to going to a Disney film because of advancement of an LGBTQ agenda. But that isn’t this one. (And we sure hope it won’t be Frozen 2)!

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